Connect with us


Why it matters that Trump conflates Russian meddling with collusion



Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin
President Vladimir Putin hands U.S. President Donald Trump (L) a
World Cup football during a joint press conference after their
summit on July 16, 2018 in Helsinki, Finland.

Chris McGrath/Getty Images

  • President Donald Trump has a habit of conflating
    Russian election interference and Russian collusion.
  • Experts worry that his trademark response that there
    was “no collusion” also translates to an unwillingness to
    address Russia’s continuing attacks on the US electoral
  • The White House has not issued any official guidance to
    US intelligence agencies to combat Russian influence on
    upcoming elections, so the National Security Agency and US
    Cyber Command have been acting to counter the threats on their
  • One Russia expert suggested that Trump’s tendency to
    view Russian meddling as a partisan issue stems from the fact
    that he “does not want to diminish his election victory, and
    believes that admitting Russia meddled will somehow do

Sign up for the latest Russia investigation updates here»

During a wild press conference in Helsinki following his summit
with Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump
addressed a question about Russia’s election interference with
his trademark response: “There was no collusion.”

Trump rolled out the statement when Reuters’ Jeff Mason asked
Putin why Americans and Trump should believe his claim that
Russia did not interfere in the election, given that the US
intelligence community has concluded otherwise.

Trump immediately interjected, saying the “whole concept” of
Russian meddling “came out as a reason why the Democrats lost an
election which, frankly, they should have been able to win.”
Falsely claiming that the
Electoral College is “a lot more advantageous to Democrats,”
Trump added that “there was no collusion … there was nobody to
collude with.”

It’s not the first time Trump has conflated Russian interference
and collusion. But his latest refusal to address what his own
intelligence chief called one of the gravest threats
facing the US was made all the more jarring by the fact that it
came just three days after the Department of Justice indicted 12
Russian intelligence officers on hacking charges related to the
2016 campaign.

Robert Mueller
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller, now the special
counsel, is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 US

Alex Wong/Getty

In early 2017, the US intelligence community determined that the
Kremlin ordered an elaborate and multifaceted campaign to meddle
in the race. A key pillar of that campaign, according to US
intelligence, was the hacking of the DNC and the subsequent
dissemination of emails intended to hurt Democrats and the
campaign of the party’s 2016 presidential nominee, Hillary

The special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating Russian
interference in the 2016 election, whether the Trump campaign
colluded with Moscow in the process, and whether Trump has tried
to obstruct his team’s probe.

Friday’s indictment did not accuse any Americans with crimes in
the indictment or insinuate that any US citizen knowingly
colluded with Moscow.

Still, the charges seemed to hit a nerve with Trump.

“Every time you hear all of these, 12 and 14, it’s stuff that has
nothing to do — and frankly, they admit these are not people
involved in the campaign,” Trump said during the press conference
on Monday. “We ran a brilliant campaign, and that’s why I’m

William Pomeranz, the deputy director of the Kennan Institute for
Advanced Russian Studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center, pointed
out that the indictment only addresses interference.

“Trump has never addressed that because he only wants to talk
about collusion,” Pomeranz said. “But the issue is interference,
and the reality is that Trump not only did not challenge Putin
about that, [but] he shows a glaring misunderstanding of what
occurred in this election and what his responsibility is as head
of the United States and defender of the Constitution.”

Trump’s own intelligence chief says the ‘warning lights are
blinking red again’

trump putin
stunned observers when he rebuffed the US intelligence community
in favor of Russia in Helsinki.

Thomson Reuters

Trump’s reluctance to accept the US intelligence community’s
findings that Russia meddled in the election has other, broader

Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, said last week
that “the warning lights are blinking red again” on potential
cyberattacks against the US.

“The warning signs are there,” Coats said during a talk at the
Hudson Institute in Washington, DC. “Today, the digital
infrastructure that serves this country is literally under

Coats compared the threat level facing the US now to the weeks
before the September 11 attacks.

“And here we are nearly two decades later, and I’m here to say,
the warning lights are blinking red again,” Coats said.

Russia, he added, is the “most aggressive foreign actor, no
question. And they continue their efforts to undermine our

Despite that, the White House has not given the National Security
Agency and US Cyber Command any official guidance on how to guard
the 2018 midterms and future elections against foreign

So last week, NSA director Paul Nakasone announced that he had
directed the two organizations to act independently of the White
House to counter Russia’s aggression. They are also working with
the FBI, the CIA, and the Department of Homeland Security on the

“Nakasone, and the heads of the other three-letter agencies, are
doing what they can in their own lanes, absent an overall
approach directed by the president,” former NSA director Michael
Hayden told the Washington Post. But
“as good as it is, it’s not good enough. This is not a narrowly
defined cyberthreat. This is one of the most significant
strategic national security threats facing the United States
since 9/11.”

Trump’s reticence on such a pressing issue has baffled national
security experts.

“Whatever you want to call [yesterday] — whether it was a summit
or a meeting — it was a clear victory for Putin,” said Edward
Price, the former senior director of the National Security
Council under President Barack Obama.

“After all, one of Putin’s strategic goals in 2016 — beyond
electing Trump — was to be on the same plane and playing field as
the American president,” he told Business Insider. “Trump gave
him that [Monday] … Putin couldn’t have scripted a more perfect

trump note colusion
Donald Trump’s prepared remarks show his own handwritten notes at
the start of a meeting with members of Congress at the White
House on July 17, 2018.


Pomeranz echoed that point.

Trump’s comments blaming both the US and Russia for the decline
in relations between the two countries ignores “all the things
that have occurred on Putin’s watch and essentially whitewashes
them, starting with Crimea and including Syria, the nerve agent
attacks in the UK, and the attacks on the US electoral system,”
he said.

“Why Trump feels that this is a partisan issue that does not
warrant a whole of government response is something that only
makes sense when you understand that Donald Trump does not want
to diminish his election victory, and believes that admitting
Russia meddled will somehow do so,” Pomeranz said.

On Tuesday, Trump said he had “full faith” in US intelligence
agencies and wanted to clarify his Monday
. “The sentence should have been: I don’t see any
reason why it wouldn’t be Russia” that interfered in the
US election, he said. “Sort of a double negative.”

Written in black marker on his typed
was a note in all caps: “THERE WAS NO COLUSION.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement Find your dream job